Shelly Wells, PhD, MBA, APRN-CNS, ANEF, Division Chair and Professor at the school.

University fueling rural health care

There’s something special going on with the future of rural healthcare in Oklahoma and it’s taking place at Northwestern Oklahoma State University.
Shelly Wells, PhD, MBA, APRN-CNS, ANEF is the Division Chair and a Professor at the school. A big smile covers her face when she describes how the Alva university is educating nurses to provide healthcare to rural Oklahomans for generations to come.
“We want to keep them out in the high-need areas so our curriculum includes education on rural nursing and that sets us apart from other programs in the state,” Wells said. “At this time, we are the only public university in Oklahoma that offers a BSN to DNP.”
Northwestern features three different options to advance your nursing education.
The traditional BSN program is offered at four different sites. Students who have earned their LPN may be admitted with advanced standing into the traditional program.
“We have provided access throughout four different sites throughout rural northwestern Oklahoma so that the students don’t have to travel to a main campus to receive their education. They can receive much of it near their home areas.”
An online RN-to-BSN program is available with no traditional clinical hour requirements that may be completed in 12 months. This program is designed for working RNs to complete their BSN.
A hybrid BSN-to-DNP program allows students to pursue their family nurse practitioner licensure without needing to obtain a Master’s degree first. Coursework is offered online with practicums close to the student’s home setting.
“We anticipated admitting six students the first cohort and 10 the second and we have admitted 25 so far in each cohort and it’s become a competitive entry process,” Wells said of the growing program.
A Nightingale Award of Nursing Excellence recipient from the Oklahoma Nurses Association, Wells takes pride in the program’s low faculty-to-student ratio and the relationships the faculty have forged at healthcare facilities across northwestern Oklahoma.
Allowing students to learn in their communities creates a natural draw for students.
“That’s the plan,” Wells said. “We have students completing clinical rotations in those four sites with the thought and hope they will stay in those sites to serve their home communities.”
The NWOSU Nursing program is nationally recognized for its accessibility, affordability, and program outcomes.
The BSN program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc. (ACEN) and is approved by the Oklahoma Board of Nursing (OBN).
The BSN-to-DNP program for Family Nurse Practitioners has received provisional approval from the Oklahoma Board of Nursing and has applied for national accreditation through the Commission on Collegiate Education (CCNE) with a site visit scheduled in November 2019
The yearly application process for the traditional BSN program begins each October. The Online RN-to-BSN program enrolls students year-round and the annual application cycle for the BSN-to-DNP program opens every January.
With more than 30 years of teaching experience in nursing, Wells has closely followed the national trend calling for more BSN-prepared nurses.
“All the hospitals we have talked to in Oklahoma prefer to hire BSN-prepared nurses and they are encouraging their staff to go back and complete their BSN,” Wells said. “We’re seeing those numbers increase.”
A BSN provides the foundation of study that can serve as a basis for pursuing advanced education in nursing.
And Northwestern provides options to do that close to home.